It’s not every day that students at The Master’s College have an opportunity to pet a fluffy, albeit slightly tired, black lab puppy lying on the grass at North Campus.
Two other puppies joined the black lab as part of an activity entitled “Someone Else’s Shoes” on Nov. 12 during Global Mobilization Week. Guide Dogs of America brought three guide-dogs-in-training and glasses that simulated different types of blindness.
The dogs were only part of the event’s attractions. There were seven different stations that allowed students to experience one facet of one disability. The idea came from Joni and Friends’ training for disability retreats.
“The goal of the event was to give students an opportunity to put themselves in someone else’s shoes in order to promote empathy on the part of our students for people who have disabilities,” said Dr. Lisa LaGeorge, director of Global Outreach.
A key distinction provided by Webster is that empathy is “the ability to share someone else’s feelings” and the activities elicited those responses.
Students painted their names by holding a paintbrush in their mouths to simulate paraplegics. At the overstimulation station, the participants read a book while music played in one ear and they were yelled at in the other ear.
To mimic motor skill disability they wore red gloves stitched together at the fingertips and had to button up a shirt, tie a shoe, and spread peanut butter on a cracker. For dyslexia, the participant wrote his or her name against his or her torso while looking in a mirror. No names were legible.
The two most popular stations were the blindness simulation and “chubby bunny.” Students were blindfolded and had to pour a glass of water. Then, they walked down the sidewalk with a cane.
For “chubby bunny” students placed a marshmallow on their tongue and held it in their mouth while Elijah English, the GO leader manning the station, asked them a series of questions.
“What is your name?” “Can you spell it?” “What did you have for lunch today?”
The marshmallow blocked sounds and it made it difficult to understand what the participant said. Although the participant spoke as clearly as possible with coherent thoughts, the output was a cotton ball muffled sound.
The last question was, “Can you define dignity?”
And that’s where “Someone Else’s Shoes” came together. These activities promoted empathy and understanding so that students could look past the limitations of those with disabilities and see the dignity of those with disabilities.
Part of LaGeorge’s definition of dignity is that, “They are able to function to the best of their ability… and people who observe or interact with them are able to recognize that their lives are significant because they are made in the image of God and have been gifted with this disability so that God may be glorified.”
Each activity simulated one aspect of one type of disability. Yet it scratched the surface of what living with a disability looks like.
“It puts it in perspective. You are in someone else’s shoes. You see what they go through and that’s only part of it. It’s not even the whole picture. It’s just one thing they have to deal with because usually there’s more to that,” English said.
“Someone Else’s Shoes” was one part of the Global Mobilization week that focused on loving and sharing the gospel with those who have disabilities. Justin Reimer of the Elisha Foundation, an organization that ministers to individuals with disabilities and their families around the world, spoke in chapel about a biblical view of disabilities. He reminded students that those with disabilities are made in the image of God and are indispensable parts of the Body of Christ.
LaGeorge chose to highlight disabilities during GloMo because it is a prevalent and overlooked issue.
“The statistic that the UN gives is that 1 out of 8 people internationally have a significant physical or intellectual [disability] … yet within outreach ministries very few agencies will actually reach out to this community and it’s one of the most isolated communities, both internationally and domestically of any population I know of,” LaGeorge said.
Many churches in America don’t have ways to include children with disabilities in their programs. As a result one parent may stay home or in the car with their child.
Students that attend TMC will graduate and join different local churches around the country and around the world. They will be pastors and elders, they will lead Bible studies and youth group, they will teach Sunday school and serve in the nursery. If students understood how to love those with disabilities and their families, they could transform 1 out of 8 lives for the glory of God.
By Bethany Johnson